Frank Tenney Johnson

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Frank Tenney Johnson
Born26 June 1874 (1874-06-26)
Died1 January 1939 (1939-02)
Pasadena, California, United States
EducationRichard Lorenz, Milwaukee School of Art, John Henry Twachtman, Art Students League of New York
Known forPainting, Illustrating
Notable work
Riders of the Dawn, Somewhere on the Range

Frank Tenney Johnson (June 26, 1874 – January 1, 1939) was a painter of the Old American West, and he popularized a style of painting cowboys which became known as "The Johnson Moonlight Technique". Somewhere on the Range is an example of Johnson's moonlight technique. To paint his paintings he used knives, fingers and brushes.

Early life[edit]

Johnson was born in Pottawattamie County, Iowa on his family's farm along the old Overland Trail, near Big Grove, Iowa (now known as Oakland, Iowa) in the Council Bluffs area. Johnson's mother died in December 1886, and the family moved to the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. He attended Oconomowoc High School in Oconomowoc.[1] In 1893, he enrolled in the Milwaukee School of Art (absorbed by Milwaukee State Normal School in 1913),[citation needed] where he studied with Richard Lorenz, a well-known painter of western subjects.[2] In 1895, Johnson moved to New York City, where he studied with John Henry Twachtman at the Art Students League of New York.[3]


The Joyous Troublemaker, an illustration designed by Johnson.

In his early career, he worked primarily as an illustrator. He began working for Field & Stream magazine in 1904. [4] In addition to Field & Stream, he contributed to Cosmopolitan[5][6] and Harpers Weekly magazines,[7] and illustrated the Western novels of Zane Grey.[8]

Johnson lived permanently in New York City from 1904 until 1920, making numerous trips to the west to gather source material for his works that were completed in his New York studio. He lived and worked on the Lazy 7 Ranch in Hayden, Colorado for a while, later he went southwest to work on painting Native Americans. In 1920, he moved to 22 Champion Place in Alhambra, California where he shared a studio with Clyde Forsythe.[9] At this point Johnson's easel paintings became more popular than his illustrations so he concentrated in this medium. Together Johnson and Forsythe exhibited in the Biltmore Art Gallery started by Jack Wilkinson Smith at the Biltmore Hotel according to Edan Milton Hughes, Artists in California 1786 – 1940

Between 1931 and 1939, he spent much of his time at his studio in Cody, Wyoming, just outside Yellowstone National Park. Many of his paintings were done there from studies inside the park.

Johnson died from spinal meningitis in 1939 in Pasadena, California.[10]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1932, Johnson was honored with membership in the National Academy of Design.[11]


  1. ^ "Frank Tenney Johnson". Museum of Wisconsin Art. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  2. ^ Conzelman, Adrienne Ruger (2002). After the Hunt: The Art Collection of William B. Ruger. Stackpole Books. p. 62.
  3. ^ Artists in Santa Catalina Island Before 1945; essay by Jean Stern at
  4. ^ "Frank Tenney Johnson". National Museum of Wildlife Art. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  5. ^ Cosmopolitan, Volume 44. Schlicht & Field. 1908. p. iii.
  6. ^ The Cosmopolitan, Volume 46. Schlicht & Field. 1908. p. 723.
  7. ^ Harper's Weekly, Volume 57. 1913. p. lxxviii.
  8. ^ "Frank Tenney Johnson". Nedra Matteucci Galleries. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved November 26, 2013.
  9. ^ The Frank Tenney Johnson book. 1974.
  10. ^ Solomon, Deborah (2013). American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell. Macmillan. p. 196.
  11. ^ Conzelman, Adrienne Ruger (2002). After the Hunt: The Art Collection of William B. Ruger. Stackpole Books. p. 62.

External links[edit]